Can the truth die? Just go away forever?
We know, of course, that the truth cannot die. Truth will live on for eternity, because truth is of God, Who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” John 14:6. One of His disciples said, “ye know…that no lie is of the truth,” 1 John 2:21.
So, why use this title at all if I have debunked the idea before I even make my case?
Because while it is a fact that truth cannot die, it can become dead to us.
How truth is transmitted
My generation has witnessed communication morph from handwritten letters and conversations on landline telephones (with cords) to instant, wireless connections with people all over the world. Those changes have brought great benefits, but some results could not have been anticipated.
Sociologists detail changes in society, including those that have occurred because of technology. For example, the good old automobile, a wonderful advancement in transportation, affected the social fabric by doing more than just taking us places faster than the old horse and buggy could do. It also served to take dating from the front room of the parents’ home to the backroads of who knows where. The inventors, we know, were not trying to create a more private location for courting. They were just giving us a faster way to get around; yet, their advancement became used for all kinds of things they could never have envisioned.
We love communicating with each other, and as technology advanced, we welcomed offers for free email accounts and platforms that allowed us to grow more connected. Social media provided a way to share our pictures and family events with people we cared about in real time. No more waiting for film to be developed and packaging those prints in a letter to Grandma. We had access to all of it, right now.
In time, social media also became a forum for expressing our opinions, sharing our creativity (one of my favorite uses), and exposing our drama. Rousing debates erupted, often turning bitter. Twenty years ago these group conversations could only have occurred in person (sometimes broadcast via radio or television), or through printed media (competing newspaper editorials, for example). They occurred infrequently in any sort of public arena. Now, anyone and everyone can put their thoughts out there. Like seeds in the wind, they can go viral in minutes.
What we communicate
Debate itself is not unhealthy, of course. A famous business man once said, “When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”* But in the old days, there was an understood ethic that the publisher or broadcaster, took responsibility for whether the statements had basis in fact, or some merit in logic and rationality.
Now we are inundated with images of giant catfish and mammoth-sized pythons. Who generates this stuff? We could track that down, but we seldom take time. “People” spring up online who never existed, because a profile can be constructed (possibly out of those family pictures we posted years ago that are vulnerable to being recycled by a child predator).
I submit to you that on the internet, truth has died. Whole sites have sprung up dedicated to fact-checking, but we don’t always even trust them. What if they have an agenda all their own? We wouldn’t know unless we had first-hand access to the facts in a case. We cannot be sure of what is true and what is not, but that doesn’t stop some of us from sharing it as though we are absolutely certain.
I suppose the most discouraging thing about the “death” of truth in our common area of communication is that we are running low on the will to care. I stopped caring enough to fact-check very many things a while back. Instead, unless I know the people and the situation, I just don’t bother to pass on the information. I have no time to care that deeply.
Unfortunately, there is more at stake than the simple humorous, “gotcha” kinds of fake postings. We now know that the portal to our minds and hearts that is social media has been used by those intentionally spreading false information. At our heart and gut level, we are not fully sure who is saying what about whom that is true or false. We just hope we are getting it right in how we make our choices on, but our uneasiness is growing.
Once upon a time, misbehavior was punished after thorough inquiry, even court proceedings if warranted, sentencing, and appeals. We now witness the following: a thing occurs, people are accused, lives are ruined. It is that simple. Due process doesn’t occur in social media (if you don’t know what doxing is, be sure to study up on it and pray you’re never on the receiving end).**
The verifiable facts of a case may eventually be published once diligent inquiry is made, but by then the public has moved on. The facts never make the same splash as the accusations. The damage is done. People clutch their opinions tightly and suspect the motives of those providing contrary information. We know that people can say anything in social media (or broadcast or print media), whether it is true or not.
We have truly experienced the death of trust of our sources of information, which effectively leads to the “death” of truth. It is camouflaged so effectively that we must fight to find it.
What does God say?
I wouldn’t be a good Christian blogger if I didn’t bring the Bible, the Word of God into the equation. It is truth (John 17:17).
Distortion of truth did not begin with the advent of social media. It began in the Garden of Eden: “Yea, hath God said…?” the serpent said to Eve in Genesis 3:1. The enemy’s misinformation eroded Eve’s confidence in the truth, and she made a grave error based on faulty logic that justified fleshly lust.
Throughout history we see patterns of truth being proclaimed, obeyed and forsaken, over and over again. History seems to follow this example: redemption from the world by God’s intervention, the establishment of boundaries to protect that new-found redemption, a period of walking within those boundaries until the original mouthpiece of them had been taken away (Moses and Joshua, various judges and righteous kings, Jesus Christ and the apostles), followed by distortion of the boundaries by those who arose after them, yielding to the flesh and gladly chosing an easier way. But those who are stirred to seek the truth with all their hearts are guaranteed to find it.
Some of God’s statements on truth are:
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32.
“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.
“Let God be true, and every man be a liar,” Romans 3:4
“And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.
“Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” Matthew 24:12.
Truth matters to God. It is Who He is. Unless it matters to us, we can never serve Him.
What should we do?
We cannot effect the change in society that would cause people to suddenly settle for nothing less than the truth. We can only cause that stand to be taken in our own hearts.
How do we do this? Cry out to God to cleanse and heal our own receptors for truth. Confirm to Him our desire to know Him through the truth, the only way He will be known. Seek Him for the strength to let truth move in our hearts and change us. Ask Him for the faith to believe that we can know the truth for ourselves.
Picture the image of a scale where each side must balance (the type depicted in seals or logos for courts and judges). “Knowing truth” is on one side, but “obeying truth” is on the other. We will know God’s truth only to the degree that we humble ourselves and become willing to obey the truth or the commandments of God.
No one receives the revelation of Who God is–the mighty God in Christ, the man Christ Jesus–without fully committing to walk according to His Word. If we consistently demonstrate that we prefer ease and convenience and soothed consciences over stark and painful truth, He will choose our delusions (Isaiah 66:4). We will happily go our own way until we meet Him in the judgement and meet an end we did not expect.
No, I know that truth is not dead. In fact, we can know the truth. The question is, do we really want to? For, to know truth is to allow truth and its direction to reign in our lives, to submit to it. Who wants to do that?
Those who want to live forever, like the truth will do.
*1The origin of this quote is itself the subject of some debate. The earliest attribution is to William Wrigley, Jr. (the chewing gum magnate), from an interview published in The American Magazine in 1931.
**Doxing, derived from the word “document,” refers to the practice of researching and revealing the personal information such as telephone number, physical address, place of employment, etc. of a targeted individual without permission. The intent is to give an angry public direct access to them, often resulting in threats and/or actual violence, and at the very least embarrassment and ridicule. Individuals are targeted for various reasons, including being suspected of a crime, simply disagreeing with an opposing group’s point of view, or being a member of a targeted group. Publishing the information compromises the safety of the individual and destroys the normalcy of their lives.